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Admiral Michelle Howard (retired) was the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star admiral and the first woman to be appointed to the position of vice chief of naval operations (the second highest rank in the Navy). In addition, she was also the first African-American woman to reach the rank of three-stars and four stars in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and command a ship in the Navy.  Interestingly, Admiral Howard landed in the international spotlight in 2009 as leader of the counter-piracy task force that rescued civilian Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. The rescue was later depicted in the film Captain Phillips. Finally, Admiral Howard is currently a visiting professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University where she focuses on the cyber world as well as strategy and policy. 


  • What it felt like to be the first African-American woman 4-star admiral  (4:43)
  • How Admiral Howard’s parents helped shape her career goals (8:38)
  • How she decided which branch of the U.S. military to join (9:17) 
  • How Admiral Howard learned what it means to be a leader  (11:21) 
  • How the U.S. military determines your career path (13:40) 
  • What it’s like to be a woman in the military (15:05) 
  • Why it’s so important to become a great listener when you’re a 4-star admiral (17:10) 
  • What a day full of briefs looks like for an admiral (19:50) 
  • What it was like to interact with officials from other countries (24:16)  
  • Why you should listen to Admiral Howard’s Espresso Shots episode #359
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